Siblings: The Forgotten Ones

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Siblings: The Forgotten Ones

This article excerpted from the award-winning book Why Don’t They Just Quit?
Hope for families struggling with addiction.
  ~by Joe and Judy Herzanek

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

While he was still a long way off,
his father saw him coming.
Filled with compassion
the father ran to the son,
threw his arms around him and said,
“Welcome home.”
His son had come to his senses.
Let’s have a party!

His brother refused to come to the party
even after his father pleaded with him
to join them.
“I’ve stayed here all these years
and never caused a problem.
No one ever had a party for me,”
said the brother.
–paraphrased from the Gospel of Luke

Siblings often find themselves caught in the middle of the recovery process. In the story of the prodigal son, a father waits and watches expectantly for the return of his wayward child. The boy left home and not only squandered his inheritance, but also wasted a big chunk of his life. But there is so much more to the story. As we take a closer look at the entire family, we see that “the rest of the story” can apply to families and siblings today who are struggling with the early stages of recovery.




I know from firsthand experience how siblings can suffer. During my addiction, I was blind to how my actions were affecting my brother and two sisters. Actually, the entire family did not understand what was happening. Even now, more than thirty years later, some members of my family remain bitter, and we have never been able to resolve those hard feelings.

There is only so much time in any given day and when there is one high-maintenance family member, often the other children are neglected. Parents have a limited amount of energy for each day, and then they reach a point of exhaustion. In my case, which again is not unique, I received more than my share of attention. I, like many other addicts, was a very needy person. My life was one crisis after another. There were many occasions when I needed money. I drained my parents of their finances as well as their time and energy. Who suffered? At the time, it was far from obvious, but as I look back it is clear that my brother and sisters—basically good, low-maintenance kids were the innocent victims.

Mom and Dad spent a lot of their parenting energy either helping me with a problem or worried about what I might do next; they were even afraid to answer the phone. They couldn’t be in two places at once, physically or mentally. As a result, my siblings did not receive nearly the amount of attention they deserved. My parents missed their school programs and sports games because of my problems, and holidays were often ruined. Much of the focus was on Joe, and I was messing up my life while my brother and sisters were left striving to do the right thing and gain my parents’ approval and attention.

To make matters worse, my parents’ attention continued to be focused on me for a long time into my recovery. My siblings had to hear over and over, Isn’t it great that Joe’s quit using drugs? How wonderful that Joe is clean and sober. Joe has been drug-free for a year now “let’s celebrate!” These sort of comments continued, even after everything should have been back to normal. Talk about rubbing psychological salt in a wound; my brother and sisters must have been ready to puke. At that time, none of us had a clue how this would ultimately affect our future relationships.



Insidious: working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner. awaiting a chance to entrap; treacherous. harmful but enticing. Developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent. (Webster’s Dictionary)

It was only after years of recovery and study on this topic that this realization came to me. Because of this disease’s slow progression, few families are aware of the effect addiction has on the family as a whole. Few addicts think of making amends toward those who did not appear to be directly affected.

When I entered treatment many years ago, there was not much emphasis placed on the importance of family in the recovery process. Today, this is a key component in most treatment programs. Parents and siblings are strongly encouraged to be part of the process. Some centers will even offer what is called Family Week. This is a time for those who have been negatively affected to become involved in the recovery process. Many times family members will refuse to get involved: “He/she had the problem, not me. And now you are asking me to get counseling? You must be crazy.” Nonetheless, I strongly suggest that family members attend some meetings–if for no other reason than to vent frustration. It will be worth it.

“Time has yet to heal
some of the wounds in my family.”

Addiction is treacherous for the whole family. Over time, relationships can become a tangled web. Feelings get hurt and bitterness creeps in, almost unnoticed. Strife begins to build, and after a while no one remembers why. But life is too short to waste years like this. Miracles can happen when a professional helps untangle the mess.

Time has yet to heal some of the wounds in my family. The impact of my addiction and recovery has left deep scars, and damaged relationships among my immediate family that we are still attempting to understand and mend. Despite our attempts to keep things simple, life can sometimes become very complicated. Over the years, my siblings have married. Bitterness and unresolved strife have colored relationships not only among my siblings, but among our spouses and children as well. Recovery and the process of making amends to those who were hurt takes a while. Sometimes these differences may never be resolved.

Quitting, as wonderful as that may be, is not the same as recovering. Recovery means taking responsibility for the broken relationships that occurred when the addict was using. Repairing broken relationships is critical to the process of recovery. With patience and time, progress can be made.

This article excerpted from the book Why Don’t They Just Quit?
RESOURCES:
> Phone Counseling for Family Members
>
Recommended Books and DVDs for families of substance abusers and addicts
>
Low cost, No cost Alcohol and Drug Treatment Directory

> Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery Resources for Friends, Families and Employers


If you found this article helpful please consider reading
Why Don’t they Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.”

Available at:
> Our website, “Why Don’t They Just Quit?”
> Amazon.com
> Changing Lives Amazon Storefront (buy new, from us for much less)

Why Don't They Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.
Updated and Revised


Amazon.com reviews:

Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A

Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you better understand those dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ

I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG

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> Audio Book CD (Listen to the book)
> Kindle
> Audible Audio Download (LISTEN TO 4 MIN. SAMPLE NOW)



ASK JOE:
> Do you have to stop seeing all your old friends in order to recover?
> Is a relapse-failure?
>Should my husband “back off?”
> If someone can stop using drugs or alcohol for weeks at a time, they “aren’t an addict-correct?
>Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction: What to do?
>How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?
>How can I tell if someone is an addict/alcoholic or just a heavy user?
>What is Methadone? What is Harm Reduction?

SELF TESTS:
> Self-Tests: Codependence
> Self-Tests: Alcohol and Drug Addiction

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* Have you “tried everything?” To learn about Family Phone Counseling with Joe Herzanek click here.

RELATED ARTICLES:
Alcohol Addiction, Getting Rid of Resentments; Easier Said Than Done
Children of Addicts: The Innocent Victims

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Siblings forgotten ones Alanon siblings

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5 thoughts on “Siblings: The Forgotten Ones

  1. Jennifer

    I do worry about my 10 year old, K. Our home life has focused so much on our 16 year old because of his substance abuse. I’ve been writing a blog – this may sound strange, but it gives me peace and helps me sleep at night. Feel free to read and pass it on to anyone who could benefit. majormomma.com

  2. Pingback: Children of Addicts: The Innocent Victims | Changing Lives Foundation Blog

  3. Joe

    Dear Michle,
    So sorry to hear about your husband. I’ll try to comment but there are a few things that I don’t know that will limit my response. A couple of variables would be his age and also if you have children. But here we go. Yes, meth is a very harmful and addictive drug. But so is alcohol, crack, oxycontin and so on. In spite of that LOTS of people are quitting and beginning the journey of recovery everyday. If the ‘want to’ is there people can quit. So what are you supposed to do?? It sounds like you have already endured a lot of pain. If you have kids this is even worse. I would suggest the you ‘detach’ from him for a period of time. If I were you I would firmly tell him you are all done. You will not talk to him, take his calls or allow him in your home again until he has at least 60 or 90 days of complete abstinence from ALL substances. I would tell him HE MUST DECIDE which relationship is the most important. The one he has with his drugs and that worthless lifestyle or his family. If he still chooses to continue his substance use then it may very well be time to move on. Life is way to short to remain a hostage to his insane choices. You can do this. The ball is in his court. If he will not do the things necessary to recover, like attend 12 Step groups, get a sponsor and swallow his pride and do the hard work of recovery then you can say you have done what you could and then move on with your life- and have no regrets. Grace and peace, Joe

  4. michle menuey

    I’ve read your book once a couple of months ago when my husband went to jail again for the amp teenth time it seems. He was there for about 14 days then got out. He said things would change and he would stop using, but this did not happen he contiuned to use and the voilence and anger got worse. After about two months of being out of jail he is back there again. I’m rereading your book thinking that i missed what you ha dto say the first time. It helped me understand some of the issuses my family must deal with when a user of meth lets it take over thier entire life. It has been hard th watch my husband and best friend become someone that i do not even know any more and can’t trust. Meth has killed a great person and family how does someone recovey from that damage.

  5. carletha claiborne

    I recently started reading the book, Why Don’t They Just Quit. there are things in this book that i thought about , but did not know how to begin to find the answers. thank you Joe for your help, and thank God for using you and your wife, Judy to become a part of my life and family. Carletha

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